It was a long-haired donkey-jacketed council labourer from Yorkshire named Tex who introduced me to Michael Moorcock's New Worlds magazine. It was that glorious summer of 1967 when, as someone once said, there was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air. I had been staying briefly in a house in Bermondsey. It was most likely the only time I ever had anything close to what one could call a conversation with the taciturn Tex, this one lasting only long enough for him to hand me the magazine, mumble a sentence or two before going back to his thousand-piece jigsaw he and his girlfriend had been working on for as long as I'd staying there. In the weeks that followed it seemed like everyone I ran into was reading the magazine. And one or two were even writing for it. With Michael Moorcock, not yet the author of all those Jerry Cornelius novels and so much more, at its helm, the magazine set out to explore, not the cliché-ridden realms of outer space, but that murky world referred to at the time as inner space, and, in doing so, make speculative fiction a kind of road map directing readers to what might be possible in a world that was being turned upside down.
So it’s appropriate that these two publications would form the basis, and focal point, for a study of radical science fiction from 1950-1985. In fact, Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, while keeping those publications firmly in mind, move both backwards and forwards in time with essays that extend the rebellious spirit, however varied, of New Worlds and Dangerous Visions. Nette and McIntyre’s volume really does cut a wide swathe, with excellently-researched essays from a variety of contributors on subjects that move across the board: from that utopias, dystopias, the bomb, revolution, the Vietnam war, race relations, feminism, the sexual revolution, ecology, and drugs, to sub-genres like Russian, gay, and young adult sci-fi, as well as chapters on publishers, editors, and writers, both obscure and well-known, from Moorcock, Judith Merril, Philip K. Dick, Samuel Delaney, Barry Malzberg, J.G. Ballard, Ursula LeGuin, Roger Zelazny, to Denis Jackson, Hank Lopez, R.A. Lafferty, Octavia Butler, and James Tiptree. With something for everyone, there are bound to be writers discussed that will be unfamiliar to readers. I for one had never come across the likes of Hank Lopez (Afro Six) or Denis Jackson ("Flying Saucers and Black Power"!). Likewise, there’s a plethora of paperback covers, all excellently reproduced which will make readers want to track down some of these titles on secondhand sites and bookstores.